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Baby, that April Fool’s joke fell flat!

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Life can be pretty absurd! Women have been known to give birth to a baby when they never knew they were pregnant. A tiger can break out of a zoo and walk around the streets of Edenvale in Johannesburg. In Paris, waiters and waitresses run in a race carrying water and a croissant on a tray. Marshmallows can fall from a helicopter in the United States, and children run to get them.

“Reality is so absurd, the jokes cannot compete,” Arthur Goldstuck, author and journalist, told the SA Jewish Report this week.

This is probably why when we reached out to members of the community to share amusing stories they had about April Fool’s jokes or Purim spiels they had played on people, few responded. Although, from those who did, it was clear that the community has a sense of humour.

Johannesburg real estate agent Spencer Schwartz describes a prank that he and YouRealty pulled in 2021. For April Fool’s Day, YouRealty put out an advertisement on Facebook saying that the Ponte Tower, near Hillbrow, was going to become exclusively Jewish, and would be renamed Azrieli Tower.

The advertisement promised “affordable living focused on the Jewish community of Joburg”. It also promised a “Chabad of Berea” and a “fully stocked KosherWorld, as well as many retail space opportunities, CAP security offices, and training centres, two out of eight lifts that could be used on Shabbat, and 24-hour hi-tech access control”.

Schwartz says that after putting out the prank, he received many messages asking for all sorts of things, including if they could design the kitchen in the flats or if they could rent out shops in the buildings.

“Many people believed it,” he said. “Many told me it was one of the best April Fool’s pranks in a long time.”

Community member Noah Geller* (who asked not to reveal his real name) told how in 2020, he decided that he would play a joke on his friends by telling them that he was going to be making aliya because it seemed like it was the right time, given the COVID-19 pandemic.

Much to his dismay, only three of his friends reached out asking if it was real, and how he could make aliya in the middle of lockdown. “I learned who my real friends were that day,” he said.

Another community member spoke about an April Fool’s prank that seriously backfired and almost caused divorce. She already had four children, and on her Facebook page on 1 April, she referred to being excited because number five was on its way.

She had errands to run and things to do that day, and was shocked when her furious husband, who had had a vasectomy after their fourth child, called her in hysterics, asking, “What are you saying? Did you have an affair? How could this be possible?” He was so angry, he didn’t let her get a word in to explain that it was a joke before slamming down the phone.

She tried calling him, and eventually WhatsApped him, saying, “April Fool!” It took him a few months to see the humour in her prank, but they are still happily married with four kids.

Another member of the community thought it was hilarious to put a fake but realistic looking snake just outside his mother’s bedroom door on 1 April a few years back, and then he went off to school nearby. She was alone in the house with her phone in the lounge and was so terrified, she didn’t leave her bedroom until her son returned from school hours later. She didn’t see the humour, and he didn’t either for long after he was grounded every weekend for two months after that.

In corporate April Fool’s Day fashion, Woolworths posted that it was going to release a cosmetic line with its famous confection Chuckles. In a joke social media post, Woolworths wrote, “Two iconic Woolies brands, WBeauty and Chuckles, have partnered to bring you a limited-edition range of bath and beauty treats. Arriving soon at a store near you.” Commenters were quick to point out that this was an April Fool’s joke, as this isn’t the first time Woolworths has attempted to trick the public in this way.

In 2022, Woolworths announced that it would be combining its two most famous items to create Rotisserie Chicken-flavoured Chuckles. “We’re excited to announce our newest Chuckles creation – Rotisserie Chicken-flavoured Chuckles!” wrote the brand on Twitter, saying, “Think malt balls infused with delectable rotisserie chicken flavour, enrobed in rich, creamy milk chocolate. Slightly savoury, complemented by deliciously sweet … It’s a winner!” Packaging was drawn up, and consumers were rightly horrified by the prospect. Twitter was ablaze at the awfulness of a roast chicken-flavoured puff enrobed in chocolate, however on Facebook, commenters were in on the joke, and laughed at the prospect.

Lucky Star Pilchards tweeted on 1 April 2024 that it would be releasing a new limited-edition vanilla custard-infused pilchards, and that it would be expanding its dessert selection. While many online caught onto the fact that it was a joke, many tweeted in disgust that they wouldn’t be trying this new treat, with one user replying with a GIF of a baby vomiting.

Similarly, in 2019, sweets maker Mister Sweet posted on its Facebook page that it would be discontinuing the fan favourite Speckled Eggs which the company had created. The post, seeming official, caused distress to all who saw the post. The comment section was filled with customers angry that it would be discontinuing the brand’s most popular sweet.

*not his real name

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